Australia’s neighbouring countries offer incredible getaways, with relaxing beaches, colourful drinks and amazing food. But that’s not all they offer. Some places like Thailand, Bali and Malaysia are also providing tourists cheap dental work – turning trips into dental holidays.
Dental tourism is an enticing new market. There are even medical tourism agencies who will organise your treatment overseas, from cosmetic surgery, to dental work and even fertility treatment. These companies will manage your flights, accomodation and activities, plus advice on which hospitals and doctors to visit. Unfortunately though, they won’t include travel insurance in case there are complications with your procedure.
By going abroad for dental work, are you putting your smile on the line? We discuss the benefits and risks of overseas dental work below, so you can make a more informed decision about who you trust to take care of your teeth and overall health.
The most common dental holiday packages
Getting your teeth done abroad is an increasing trend in Australia, and many companies are getting on board. They’re offering overseas dental holiday packages that mix adventures with new dentures, or skydiving with teeth whitening. Regardless of the itinerary, they all include a low-cost dental procedure.
Some of the most common overseas dental work includes:
Many of these procedures can be done during a 2-day trip, while others require you to stay much longer.
Here are some things to consider before going on your overseas dental holiday.
Pros of overseas dental holidays
Obviously, one of the main benefits of having your dental work done overseas is the chance to kill two birds with one stone by exploring the country while you’re there. You can enjoy the local culture, sights and food before your treatment, or afterwards if you’re feeling up to it.
The other main reason many patients opt to have their dental treatment overseas is the cost of the procedure. In some countries, the price of dental treatment can be cheaper than the same procedure in Australia. There can be a few reasons for these lower costs, outlined below.
Cons of overseas dental holidays
What does ‘low cost’ really mean?
The Australian dental industry is heavily regulated, and our standards are set incredibly high. The materials used are the best available and dentists spend a lot of time consulting with their patients on different options. Overseas, dental standards are different – and potentially much lower.
No one wants to pay for a botched procedure, even if it was half the price of a local one. But there are big risks with overseas dental work. With different standards, there’s less accountability during each procedure and after it (if something goes wrong).
One of the main reasons for the lower costs of treatment is that in these overseas countries, wages are much lower and therefore the cost of running the practice is cheaper.
Another difference between many of these countries and Australia is the health regulations and safety standards. Australia is home to specific government boards and health regulations to protect patients from health risks. For this reason, cleanliness, infection control and sterilisation in the dental practice may not be considered as critical as they are in Australia, as there are no governing bodies to enforce these measures in some countries so staff may cut corners.
This can increase the risk of contracting viruses or bacteria such as Hepatitis or HIV when infection control isn’t adequate.
Many dentists overseas will have plenty of training and experience, but some may not, with the major issue being that it can be difficult to find out. The training, qualifications and registration of your Australian dentist will always be transparent, and if there are significant issues with their quality of work, you can be reassured that there are avenues through which you can make a complaint.
Communication is key when discussing your dental options. Do you feel like the overseas company has your best interests in mind, and have they clearly defined your options? Your time is limited on an overseas dental holiday, and can restrict the time for proper consultation and procedures.
Even in Australia, dental procedures can get tricky. Some will require follow-ups and, in a few cases, a new procedure to fix something that goes wrong. With overseas work, the dentist that does your procedure won’t be with you during the later stages. You’ll need to be prepared to return to the country if follow-up appointments are required, whether due to treatment failure after returning to Australia, or if it’s a treatment that will need to be redone every few years. This will mean paying more for flights, accommodation and time off work, potentially costing as much in the end as getting the treatment locally to begin with.
A local dentist, on the other hand, will be available every step of the way and will be more easily accessible.
If there were any concerns after treatment with your dentist in Australia, it could be rectified quickly. This is the case even for minor issues, such as when a crown is placed and the bite doesn’t feel perfect. If this was done overseas, you would have to pay a local dentist to fix the issue on your return home.
For complex procedures like dental implants, they take time to become integrated into the jaw, so you would only find out they haven’t integrated properly weeks after arriving home. Treatment to correct this with a new dentist can be much more expensive than having it done with them in the first place.
How to get the best dental treatment
Whether you decide to take the risk of dental treatment overseas or you opt to stay local instead, here are some tips to ensure you receive the highest quality of care at a reasonable price:
Overseas dental treatment:
- Gather information online or visit the hospital before your treatment: Research previous patient reviews or recommendations from people living in the country. Request background details on the dentists through the hospital, including qualifications and where they’ve completed training.
- Ask plenty of questions: Request a comprehensive treatment plan which includes the total time frame and all the costs.
- Plan to be flexible: Book flights that can be changed and ensure you have enough annual leave in case you need to stay longer than expected.
- Be prepared to return for more work: Assume the worst case scenario that you may need to travel again if more treatment is needed, and that there is always the chance that you might lose the savings you made initially.
Australian dental treatment:
- Get health insurance with extras: This will help cover some dental treatments, but not necessarily all costs. Properly research your current insurance, as some complex oral and maxillofacial surgery may be included in your hospital insurance.
- Create a separate savings fund: Put away money each week to cover future dental costs if health insurance is too expensive. This will require some budgeting, but it’s better than being unprepared and needing to borrow money to receive treatment or putting off the required treatment completely.
- Take care of your teeth: Most dental issues are actually avoidable with good hygiene and preventative dentistry. Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, and visiting your dentist for a 6-monthly check up and clean will help prevent disease and identify any issues early before they become worse, saving you plenty of money, time and pain in the long run